RTI Act supersedes official secrets law

Public interest prevails, says judge

April 10, 2019 10:35 pm | Updated 10:35 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 Justice K.M. Joseph. File photo: R.V. Moorthy

Justice K.M. Joseph. File photo: R.V. Moorthy

The Right to Information Act confers on ordinary citizens the ‘priceless right’ to demand information even in matters affecting national security and relations with a foreign state, Justice K.M. Joseph observed in his separate judgment in the Rafale case.

Justice Joseph was countering the claim made by the government for privilege over Rafale purchase documents under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), saying it affected national security and relations with France. But Justice Joseph said the Right to Information (RTI) Act overawes the OSA.

Referring to Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, Justice Joseph said the government cannot refuse information if disclosure in public interest overshadows certain ‘protected interests.’

“The Parliament has appreciated that it may be necessary to pit one interest against another and to compare the relative harm and then decide either to disclose or to decline information... if higher public interest is established, it is the will of Parliament that the greater good should prevail though at the cost of lesser harm being still occasioned,” Justice Joseph said, describing the purpose of Section 8(2).

‘Bias a bane’

The separate judgment also offers a scathing critique on journalistic bias. The judge said “controlling business interests and political allegiances" have eroded journalistic responsibility.

The judge said bias is as much a bane for a journalist as it is for a judge.

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